Disney Renaissance Heroes : Good to Most Good
Disney has a long history in the world of animated movies, ever since they released Snow White in 1938. But every film industry has it’s up and downs. And although there are other great eras that the studio has… It’s hard to deny the significance of what many have dubbed Disney’s Renaissance Era. A period that lasted from 1989 to 1999 and contained ten movies. Many of which are considered some of the best in the studio’s resume.
But today, we want to focus on the era’s heroes… To determine who truly is the most noble. I’m Kyle with WickedBinge and this is Disney Renaissance Heroes: Good to Most Good. For this list, we’ll be covering the films in Disney’s Renaissance Era.
These films have a lot of great protagonists in them, but we’ll be including the secondary heroes as well. Just to make things interesting. We’ll be starting with the least good hero and working our way up to most noble and heroic of heroes… First up, we have Ariel. Though Ariel was just a young woman who craved more in life, we had to dock her a lot of points for the amount of trouble she caused with her pursuit of a life on land. Her naivety led to her being used by Ursula and put Triton in a compromising and dangerous situation, not only risking his life but the entire kingdom.
If anything, Ariel is young, naive and overly-idealistic. She did what she did with the intention of having the life she desired. A little selfish, but we understand that sometimes the pursuit of a goal can end up with others being hurt unintentionally. Next up, we’re placing Adam, better known as The Beast. Honestly, we considered dropping him to the lowest spot, but decided not to because of his overall growth. After spending years in darkness, the Beast was understandably bitter and cold towards any who came near.
He was quick to lash out and use his form as a way to strike fear into others. Heck, the whole kidnapping thing really takes some hero points away from him. But through his time with Belle, he learned how to place others above himself and how to show mercy. Much like Simba, he tried to give his enemy the chance to leave with their life rather than be killed. He sent Belle away knowing how much her father meant to her, which was a very selfless thing to do. He was close to being cursed forever, but took that chance because he finally understood what it meant to place others first.
And for this reason, we spared him the lowest spot. Moving onto Pocahontas. Much like Ariel, she caused a lot of damage in her pursuit of gaining the knowledge she wanted. She could have gone about it in a much safer way, but instead of being upfront, she insisted her best friend lie for her, didn’t face Kocoum on her uncertainty of being married, and involved herself with people her father thought were too dangerous to get mixed up with. But she does get credit for stepping in to save John and stop the war from breaking out.
Taking the next spot is Princess Jasmine. Lively and resilient, she was not the type of woman to back down just because someone told her to. She refused to be treated as just a pretty face and made a point to try and learn as much as she could about the world outside of the palace. Though it did almost end up with her hand being chopped off, she was quick to learn from Aladdin and was able to figure out who he was long before he confessed.
Her quick thinking was able to distract Jafar and she openly fought against the sorcerer even when she was aware that he could end her in an instant. Taking our next place as least good is Simba. A bit of a controversial ranking, perhaps. He was a tough one to place since he really did get tossed around by everyone else around him. Simba was a very reckless kid, but he was learning how to be a great leader from his father.
Had Simba been able to stay in the Pridelands and had Mufasa lived, we have no doubt Simba would have been a great king right off the bat. Unfortunately, the trauma of his father’s death left the cub with a lot of guilt. While we do have a lot of respect for Timon and Pumba taking him in and teaching him how to survive, we also want to point out that their laid back lifestyle also influenced Simba in a negative way… Leaving him in that same child-like and scared mindset he had been in when he first met them. When faced by what was happening in the Pridelands by Nala, Simba’s first reaction is to lash out and insist that no matter what condition the kingdom was in, they were better off without him.
All because he felt guilt over Mufasa’s death and didn’t want to face everyone. We don’t rank him lower since Simba did eventually return to Pride Rock and fight for his place as king. He was able to face his demons and start the process of overcoming his trauma, remembering Scar’s role in his father’s death.
Simba even tried to show mercy as he thought his father would have done, giving Scar the chance to flee the Pridelands and never return, granting the other lion the choice to live in exile rather than die. Moving on, we have Phil. The one to train Hercules, he was originally in it for the fame.
He told Hercules himself that he had trained countless heroes and that his dream was to create a hero so great that the gods would create a constellation of them and people would forever remember that Phil trained them. Though he had become jaded in his years away from training, he still became protective of Hercules. He exposed Meg as being a pawn for Hades though he knew it would hurt Hercules. He returned because of Meg’s insistence that the demi-god would be killed without his help and was the one to inspire Hercules to keep fighting even without his powers. Moving onto our next pick: Nala.
Simba’s good friend and love interest, she earned a spot on our list because of her insistence to have Simba step up and be king. She had originally left the Pridelands to seek help for her people, and upon finding Simba she eagerly tried to get him to return home with her. She was the voice of reason he needed to get him to start to overcome his fear, even recruiting Timon and Pumba by explaining who he was and what his status was. She fought with the other lionesses against the hyenas and helped to take the Pridelands back from Scar.
Next up, we have Jane. A craving for knowledge and adventure, she was not at home in the jungle when we first met her. But after being saved by Tarzan, she begins to fixate on him, seeing him as someone to learn from. She made a point to teach him all she could and try to communicate with him. She didn’t see him as a tool to get what she wanted, but as a person that was just lost and curious.
After they were betrayed by Clayton, she returned with Tarzan to fight against him and his men, freeing all the gorillas she could. She did have a lot of trouble understanding how much a home the jungle truly was to Tarzan, always trying to convince him to return to London with her, but in the end, she understood that he had a lot of others depending on him to lead them. Next up we have Prince Eric. From the first time we see him up to the final conflict, Eric makes it clear that he’s not the type of prince to just sit back and let others do the work for him. He was a man of the people, always willing to lend a hand on the ship when out sailing and always civil towards those that worked on the palace grounds and lived in the kingdom. He helped to save others when the ship was going down in flames though it almost cost him his own life.
He willingly took in Ariel when he thought she was someone just washed up on shore, taking the time to teach her about their way of life in the kingdom. When he found out the truth, he fought to protect her and her father, giving the deathly blow to Ursula with one of the formerly sunken ships. Next on our list is John Smith.
John was a man who craved adventure and was willing to explore every inch of land or sea he could. He was regarded as brave, dependable and loyal among the men he worked with. He saved Thomas from drowning at sea.
He stood up to Radcliffe to declare there was no gold to be found. He took Thomas’ place when Kocoum was killed, knowing it would lead to his execution. He even stepped in to save the Chief from being shot down by a desperate Radcliffe.
Once he began to learn about Pocahontas and her way of life, he was one of the few men to see the Natives as valuable teachers rather than as a threat. John expressed that it was going to be near impossible to make anyone listen to them, but he did make an effort to show his men the food the Natives had grown and told his fellow explorers it would be more valuable to learn how to work the land. Coming in for our next spot, you’ve never had a friend like him before, we have Genie.
He’s a hard one to place for one simple reason: his entire existence is to serve others. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter. He had no say in who owned his lamp at that time.
But also give Genie a lot of hero points for his clear love for Aladdin. He became incredibly attached to Aladdin, even showing regret when he had to work for Jafar, telling the former street rat that he had a new master now. Genie was willing to give up the promise of freedom to help give Aladdin his happy ending and, though he had to count it as a wish, he saved Aladdin from drowning. The character is widely remembered for his comedic antics, but the Genie also showed us a lot of heartwarming moments, from expressing the desire to be free to encouraging Aladdin to be honest with the princess. Next up is Megara.
Or as her friends call her: Meg. Meg’s story is a tragic one, and she was a little tough to place. We don’t blame her at all for ending up jaded after being stuck working for Hades.
After all, who wouldn’t be bitter after giving up their soul for who they thought was the love of their life? We give Meg a lot of credit because even when she was carrying out the tasks Hades gave her, she was always seen cheering for Hercules on the sidelines. When her real role was revealed, she begged Hercules not to face the cyclops without his powers and got Pegasus to help her find Phil, knowing the satyr would be able to get through to the demi-god. She rushed in to save Hercules from being crushed, the act giving the man his powers back and facing death for him. She didn’t have any powers of her own but was able to fight in her own way. Next on our list is Belle.
Being labeled as peculiar by the people who lived near her, she had a charm about her despite being seen as different. Belle wasn’t content with being what someone else wanted her to be. From the very beginning she makes it clear that she wanted more than a simple life. She fought to be educated, took an interest in her father’s inventive nature, and always greeted those around her with kindness and civility even if they didn’t grant her the same respect. She spoke out against Gaston and the people that wanted her father locked up, declaring her father wasn’t crazy.
She gave up her freedom to keep her father from dying of sickness in a cell and showed sympathy for the Beast when he saved her life. Belle was always willing to meet others halfway and help them improve themselves, only seen denouncing one person when she stated Gaston was the real monster. Up next on our list is the king of the jungle, Tarzan. Being thrown into a world that could have eaten him alive, Tarzan was determined from an early age to not only survive in the jungle but to thrive in it. Much like Pocahontas, as we covered before, he was drawn to a way of life that was completely unfamiliar with him.
It’s hard to rank him higher since his curiosity got the best of him and everyone involved with him, but we rank him higher since Tarzan had a brand of strength that Pocahontas did not. While the chief’s daughter had only herself and her words to use against the threat of war, Tarzan had the alliance of the animals he encountered among his years growing up with them. He was able to take out the threat of the leopard Sabor. He was able to rally those around him and fight back against Clayton and his men.
He learned from his mistakes and took up the role as leader when Kerchak died in the conflict, even though it meant letting Jane leave with her father back to England without him. Though he had a lot of questions about who he really was and where he belonged, Tarzan was able to forge his own path and inspire others to do the same. Taking the next ranking is Aladdin. This troublemaker proved without a doubt that he was far more than a street rat as many people brushed him off as. Aladdin had a dream of a better life and would have done anything to get it.
But even with his struggle to find food and living in rags, he was always standing up to protect people. Heck, the guy even stood to block a child from being whipped by a moody prince. While we do have to drop Aladdin for his descent with Jasmine and him almost keeping the Genie imprisoned despite his promise, we understand where that frustration and determination came from.
But Aladdin did show his true colours and come through with giving Genie his freedom even if it meant being rejected by Jasmine. And that was after going through banishment and near death to take on Jafar and free the Sultan from being controlled. Aladdin not only saved the royal family, but all of the people from Jafar’s influence. Next we have the Captain of the Guard, Pheabus.
Upon first meeting him, you would think he was nothing more than an arrogant and over-accomplished man who was probably blood-thirsty or jaded after the Crusades. But Pheabus made it clear in that he was only following orders. He gave Esmerellda a chance to declare sanctuary in Notre Dame, upholding the right the church grounds gave to avoid arrest. He was one of the first to treat Quasimodo as an equal, even telling the bell ringer that Esmeralda was lucky to have a friend like him.
He stood up to Frollo and saved the baker and his family despite knowing he could face execution for defying orders. He travelled with Quasimodo to find the Court of Miracles and try to warn them about Frollo and rallied the citizens of Paris after Frollo declared war on Notre Dame. He more than proved himself to be an upstanding soldier and an honorable man.
Next up, we had to rank them together, we have Bernard and Bianca. Since these two spent the majority of their time on screen working together to save Penny and Cody, it didn’t feel right to rank them apart. These two were truly outnumbered and outmatched, but that didn’t stop them from fighting to protect those in need of their help. In the first film, they faced the possibility of drowning and being devoured by crocodiles and they helped Penny find the Devil’s Eye and get away from Medusa. In the second, they had to face the ruthless wilderness and the poachers that sought to benefit from it to rescue Cody from the maddened McLeach.
Bernard and Bianca’s first priority was always to step in and help. Even in the beginning of their partnership, when Bernard was superstitious and fearful and Bianca was unprepared and unsure, they still pushed on. Our next ranking goes to Esmerelda.
She truly deserves more hype among the Disney fandom. She was always shown as a fighter against those that used their power only to harm and corrupt. She spoke out openly against Frollo and fought Pheabus head on when cornered by the captain in Notre Dame. Though initially taken-aback by Quasimodo, she was the only one to show sympathy towards him in the beginning, seeing him as another victim of Frollo’s abusive power. She offered Quasimodo sanctuary in the Court of Miracles and tried to protect Quasimodo from being killed by Frollo towards the end.
She became a voice of the people and even when being hunted down, she appeared to save Pheabus from being executed and drug the former Captain of the Guard from the river. Next on our list is Mufasa. Regarded as a great king of the Pridelands, Mufasa was shown as patient and understanding. His short time in the beginning of the film had him teaching Simba the meaning of being a great leader, teaching his son that even when in fear, you can be great. A lesson that Simba would go on to use when reclaiming their kingdom from Scar. Though his brother was an outcast for his ideas on how to run the kingdom, Mufasa did have a level of trust in Scar, which wound up being his downfall.
The king spent his final moments saving his son, and was shown to return only to encourage Simba to keep fighting for what was right. Taking the bronze medal is the bell-ringer himself Quasimodo. Quasimodo overcame a lot in his life. Having to be raised by a man who despised his very existence and being feared by the people that lived below Notre Dame. All he had wanted was to live a life outside of the bell towers, even if it was only for a short time.
Being shown kindness by Esmeralda did help Quasimodo to show some bravery and determination, faking Pheabus with a simple torch when he thought the guard was a threat, going to try and save the gypsies that resided in the Court of Miracles, saving Esmerelda from death at the stake, and finally standing against Frollo and all the man stood for. Quasimodo didn’t end up with the woman he thought would be his love, but he was going to help her and Pheabus regardless of heartbreak. And his speaking out against Frollo led to a better life for the people, with Quasimodo being celebrated by the people. Our silver medal goes to Hercules.
Zeus stated that a “true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength but by the strength of his heart.” And without a doubt, Hercules had a lot of heart. Even when a gangly teenager, he still tried to help as many people as he could.
A lot of the times it backfired with him being unable to control his own strength, but Hercules was still determined to be someone people could depend on. After finding out about his godly heritage, he made the choice to train and become a hero so he could rejoin his family, going through multiple tests from Phil to become as strong as possible. Through the growing fame, Hercules never forgot his values or his loved ones. He sent a large portion of his riches to his human family and was always kind to the people of Greece. Even when his powers were taken from him when he tried to protect Meg, he still faced the cyclops and risked facing a horrible death. He fought to get Meg’s soul back even if it meant losing his own, and gave up an eternity of Olympus to share a life with Meg on Earth.
Taking the place as the most heroic we have to have Mulan. Like Hercules, Mulan stepped up to the task of saving an entire country. But unlike Hercules, no one was telling her it was expected of her. In fact, she had to deal with the opposite. Mulan was told by everyone her only job in life was to be attractive, find a husband and be honorable to her family that way. She took her father’s place in the army to spare his life knowing full well if she was discovered, she would be put to death.
She wasn’t a slouch when it came to her time training either. Mulan had been determined to make herself stronger and be allowed to go into battle. By retrieving the arrows, she inspired her fellow troops and gained the respect of her commanding officer. She risked plummeting to her death to save Shane and went on her own to warn them of Huns surviving the avalanche. She’s truly earned the title of being a hero and for all of these, we had to give her the gold medal.
But what do you think? Who do you think is the most heroic hero of the Disney Renaissance Era? Let us know in the comment section. Don't forget to hit that notification bell and binge our Good-to-Evil playlist. Where we break down the morality of the characters in your favorite cartoons, shows and movies. But most importantly, stay wicked!